Creek ran a hand over his Mohawk. “I don’t think killing him will have the effect you think it will. Might be better if you gave me more info about the baby. Something to help convince her the child is worth saving.”
Argent blinked the inner eyelids of his half-form. “Need I remind you the comarré still owes us the ring of sorrows? I will not bargain with her. She will do as the KM commands.”
“About that.” Creek planted his hands on the counter behind him and prepared for the worst. “She wants you to know she melted the ring down and used the gold to replace some lost signum. As in she had the gold stitched into her skin.”
Argent jerked like he’d been struck by lightning. Creek had never seen him react that way before. Then the dragon-shifter shot to his feet. “That stupid woman. The KM cannot allow one person to have that much power. Such a deliberate act can only be construed as aggressive and must be—”
“She only did it because she needed the signum replaced. She’s not trying to take over the world, so just relax.”
Quicker than Creek could track, Argent backhanded him, cracking his jaw and snapping his head back. “Know your place, tribe.”
A second later, Yahla dropped down from the loft, landing right behind Argent. Stark naked. Her eyes were the same nonreflective black they’d been earlier. Creek forgot the pain in his face. Call it a hunch, but his gut said things were headed south. She tipped her head at Argent, studying him like a bug on a leaf. “You will not touch him again. Nor will you tell him what to do anymore.”
Argent bristled, but after a quick glance, he ignored her. “Who is this? A whore? If you have needs, fine, but see to them outside your home.”
Hatred twisted Yahla’s face. She opened her mouth much wider than should have been possible and screeched her displeasure. Raven-shaped shadows danced around her. “He is not yours to control any longer.”
Turning, Argent shifted to his half-form, causing bone-spiked wingtips to burst from his shoulders and talons to erupt from his fingers. Creek moved slowly, positioning himself so that he could keep eyes on both of them. Splotches of scales covered Argent’s visible skin, and his slit pupils took on a predatory gleam as bright as Yahla’s were dull. “You’re not human.”
“You do not scare me.” Her head moved in short, jerky increments. “Nothing scares me.”
“No?” Argent inhaled as he curved his body upward, then thrust back, expelling a stream of fire.
“No!” Creek yelled, but he was too late.
The fire engulfed Yahla, and she disappeared in a hiss of flame, leaving a pile of charred feathers behind. Creek stared, unable to take in what had just happened.
Argent regained his human form, smoothing his suit jacket like nothing unusual had just happened. He put his back to her remains. “You have wretched taste in women. There will be no more of that, understood? Now clean that up and get back to work. I want the comarré on a plane to Corvinestri tonight.”
“How can you just kill a woman like that?”
Argent gave him a strange look. “She wasn’t human.”
“And that’s an excuse?”
His brows furrowed. “This conversation is over.”
Catching a small movement, Creek stayed put, his hip anchored to the countertop. He pointed behind Argent. “You might want to turn around.”
The burned feathers lifted into a small tornado, exploding into a swirling, cawing mass of ravens. A few seconds later, Yahla walked out of the midst of them, a few feathers drifting to the floor. Her eyes were dull, black pits. No white. No reflection. Just bottomless holes. She walked toward Argent, spreading her arms like she might take flight. Then she opened her mouth in the same unnaturally wide way she had before.
This time, she inhaled.
A strange shimmery substance floated off Argent and disappeared down her gullet. He seemed frozen as the color left his scales, his hair, his eyes, until he was as washed out as an old photo left in the sun. Yahla closed her mouth and swallowed.
Argent collapsed to the floor.
She stepped over him on her way to Creek. “Now you are free of him.”
Creek pushed away from the counter to crouch beside the sector chief’s lifeless form. He felt the man’s neck. No pulse. “You killed him.”
“I took his soul. He no longer deserved it.”
“Undo it.” Cold panic gnawed at Creek’s belly. The same feeling he’d had when his sentence had been read. “Now.”
“I cannot. Nor would I.”
Sweat stuck Creek’s shirt to his back. “Holy hell. You can’t just kill people. Especially not a Kubai Mata sector chief.”
She stood very close, forcing him to look at her. “You are afraid I have done something bad.”
“You have done something bad. Something that’s going to make you an enemy of the KM. Something that could send me back to prison.” His gut rolled over at the thought of being charged with another murder. He would not go back to prison. “How do you think I’m going to explain this? You think the KM isn’t going to check up on him when he doesn’t report back?”
She leaned over and cupped his face in her hands. The gravity of the situation seemed to fade. She forced him to keep eye contact with her. “I said I would protect you, did I not?”
Those black, murky depths were impossible to look away from. A sense of calm washed through him. His muscles unclenched and he stood, stepping over Argent to get closer to her. “Yes, that’s what you said.”